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How important is a good preamp?
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pascalm
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14th August 2009
Old 14th August 2009
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How important is a good preamp?

Hey,

As some of you may be able to tell by my post I am not fully accustomed with the recording world!

At the moment I have a simple, small set up. Running a Line 6 Toneport UX8 with my macbook, I also have a small selection of mics; SE2200A, SE1A x2, SM57 and ATM 250. I see a lot of talk about preamps on this forum and I wondered just how important they were in generating an appealing sound. Would a nice preamp added into my rig make much difference? I was especially thinking about when recording vocals.

Thanks
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A preamp is a must for quality vocal recording. I would suggest you look into getting an Apogee Duet.
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In the scheme of things, as compared to other things you can do(room treatment, mic placement, etc)?not much.

I see you have preamps on your toneport. Are you not satisfied with the sound you are getting? If not, why?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
In the scheme of things, as compared to other things you can do(room treatment, mic placement, etc)?not much.
Thats true, but when you get to that point it makes a very noticeable difference in quality. But if you cant hear the difference because of crappy speakers or room, whats the point.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Hey,

As some of you may be able to tell by my post I am not fully accustomed with the recording world!

At the moment I have a simple, small set up. Running a Line 6 Toneport UX8 with my macbook, I also have a small selection of mics; SE2200A, SE1A x2, SM57 and ATM 250. I see a lot of talk about preamps on this forum and I wondered just how important they were in generating an appealing sound. Would a nice preamp added into my rig make much difference? I was especially thinking about when recording vocals.

Thanks
list of things in order of importance i think.

player > instrument/tuning > room > microphone > pre amp > conversion

if you just sort out the first three you can get very good results even with stock digi pre amps - heck i've done it.

i see you're from leicester, how's it going up there...i'm from there orginally (brighton now)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dominic hoenig View Post
list of things in order of importance i think.

player > instrument/tuning > room > microphone > pre amp > conversion

if you just sort out the first three you can get very good results even with stock digi pre amps - heck i've done it.

i see you're from leicester, how's it going up there...i'm from there orginally (brighton now)
Haha, nice to see someone else on here from Leicester!

It's okay there has always been a half-decent music scene here i think but the weather is still terrible as most places in Britain.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teddy Ray View Post
In the scheme of things, as compared to other things you can do(room treatment, mic placement, etc)?not much.

I see you have preamps on your toneport. Are you not satisfied with the sound you are getting? If not, why?
Just doesn't sound as warm as i'd like it too, not a very full sound.

I do agree that room treatment is incredibly important, in recording and mixing. Although the reason i haven't yet explored this option is because the space in my home i am now using is temporary once i find a place to set up my gear properly i will start looking at things like that. I was just thinking about things that i could add to my set up now to improve it!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Just doesn't sound as warm as i'd like it too, not a very full sound.

I do agree that room treatment is incredibly important, in recording and mixing. Although the reason i haven't yet explored this option is because the space in my home i am now using is temporary once i find a place to set up my gear properly i will start looking at things like that. I was just thinking about things that i could add to my set up now to improve it!

seriously, just some diy absorbers will make a night & day difference my friend.

i didn't beleive the hype until i heard it for myself. you an get used to any room, but you don't HAVE to get used to any room if it's well treated.
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I think it depends on what kind of music you record at this stage.

For instance, I would rather spend £1500 on a really nice acoustic guitar than a top end pre-amp. If you are a good player playing a quality instrument (assuming you are recording live instruments) preferably in a nice room then you will struggle to make a bad recording in my opinion.

An upgrade from a Toneport to a Neve is not going to make as much difference as say a cheap Yamaha to a Collings guitar.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Just doesn't sound as warm as i'd like it too, not a very full sound.

I do agree that room treatment is incredibly important, in recording and mixing. Although the reason i haven't yet explored this option is because the space in my home i am now using is temporary once i find a place to set up my gear properly i will start looking at things like that. I was just thinking about things that i could add to my set up now to improve it!

I think that without a properly treated room(or at least some treatment), good monitoring, etc, any differences(which I think are minimal at best) will be masked.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Just doesn't sound as warm as i'd like it too, not a very full sound.

I do agree that room treatment is incredibly important, in recording and mixing. Although the reason i haven't yet explored this option is because the space in my home i am now using is temporary once i find a place to set up my gear properly i will start looking at things like that. I was just thinking about things that i could add to my set up now to improve it!
It's tricky to explain, but my best advice is this:

Once you know how a particular piece of the chain will positively impact your sound vs what you own right now, then you should look into purchasing it. This comes from a combination of research, learning and experimenting.

Until then, learn about the things that you already know that impact your sound and work on those things.
You'll reach plateau's, and then you'll be able to see what you should work on and purchase next.

Like previous people said, DIY room treatment, mic placement, and a quality source are the most important things to focus on for right now.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Hey,
I see a lot of talk about preamps on this forum and I wondered just how important they were in generating an appealing sound.
Thanks
If you would like to generate "an appealing sound", and I take it by this you mean have great sounding recordings on your DAW then a good preamp and converters is a MUST ! But you can also get reasonable sounding recordings with any basic recording equipment in this day and age... but if you want "an appealing sound" then you need a good converters ( To start with ) and then a good preamp.

A good preamp can be the difference between a flat unexciting guitar recording, and a punchy in your face guitar recording, but you do need good converters too.

But like someone rightly mentioned, I would recommend decent converters before a Preamp. Get yourself the Apogee Duet I say... then we can talk preamps.

Hope that helps
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Preamp

A great preamp is paramount to a great recording. Other factors are involved but the mic/preamp/placement rank above the many other variables as proper use can negate the rooms effect on the recording.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by antoniosolo View Post
A great preamp is paramount to a great recording. Other factors are involved but the mic/preamp/placement rank above the many other variables as proper use can negate the rooms effect on the recording.

but no amount of gear will ever be important as

1.) mic placement

2) room acoustics

3.)source

(not in that order)

once the room potential is maximized, the fundamentals of recording engineering are honed, and the OP understands fully how each piece of gear impacts the result, buying a "better preamp" is useless..

the only thing "paramount to a great recording" is a great song recorded by someone who knows what they are doing. the various boxes used(though I will admit that microphone choice is somewhat important) are not really of any importance.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dominic hoenig View Post
list of things in order of importance i think.
player > instrument/tuning > room > microphone > pre amp > conversion
No, no, no - wherever did you get that idea? You have it all backwards!

Received Gearslut wisdom is as follows (in descending order of importance):

Preamp > BassTraps > Microphone > A/D conversion > Monitors > Analog Summing > DAW summing > Interconnects > Star Grounding > Mains Cable > Forum Discussion > Instruments > Musicians > Music

Throw piles of cash at the top end of the chain and the music will come out just fine!

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A quality pre is necessary for the sole purpose that it's the largest jump in voltage in your recording chain. Millivolts to 1.2 volts is quite a step. I wouldn't want something shoddy having that responsibility.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Hey,

As some of you may be able to tell by my post I am not fully accustomed with the recording world!

At the moment I have a simple, small set up. Running a Line 6 Toneport UX8 with my macbook, I also have a small selection of mics; SE2200A, SE1A x2, SM57 and ATM 250. I see a lot of talk about preamps on this forum and I wondered just how important they were in generating an appealing sound. Would a nice preamp added into my rig make much difference? I was especially thinking about when recording vocals.

Thanks
great question.

what kind of room and monitors are you using


when i bought my first good mic and pre i actually got worse sound because my room was not really a good recording space and i was getting a better recording of a crappy space.

If your space is not good a mic that you can get really close to (look at the new Telefunken hand held) and a good pre will help a lot..B U T running a good pre through the Toneport would be a waste of capital.

with the good pre and good mic you REALLY need to have a good room and good playback system or you will not get much benefit in the end.... each part of the process is important to the result.
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Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Just doesn't sound as warm as i'd like it too, not a very full sound.
As Teddy said, that has everything to do with your environment, and pretty much nothing to do with which preamps you use. Unless you're using the pres in a 30 year old Radio Shack PA mixer.

Quote:
I do agree that room treatment is incredibly important, in recording and mixing. Although the reason i haven't yet explored this option is because the space in my home i am now using is temporary
If you truly understood how important room treatment is, you'd be asking for advice on how to treat your room without making holes or glue marks on the walls.

Seriously, this is where you should focus your attention. There are lots of temporary ways to treat a room using gobos, panels on stands, or even just stacked on the floor leaning against the walls.

Quote:
I was just thinking about things that i could add to my set up now to improve it!
Well, hopefully now you know what you can do now that will actually make a very real improvement.

--Ethan
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My room isnt treated and my vocal recordings come out top notch. So..........
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Wow, have had a lot of different replies (thank you) and i will try to take into account everything that has been said.

My room isn't terrible sounding as it is but could be a lot, lot better. I was thinking of buying some Genelec 6010As but its looking over £300 for the pair plus i'd probably need a sub.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
As Teddy said, that has everything to do with your environment, and pretty much nothing to do with which preamps you use. Unless you're using the pres in a 30 year old Radio Shack PA mixer.



If you truly understood how important room treatment is, you'd be asking for advice on how to treat your room without making holes or glue marks on the walls.

Seriously, this is where you should focus your attention. There are lots of temporary ways to treat a room using gobos, panels on stands, or even just stacked on the floor leaning against the walls.



Well, hopefully now you know what you can do now that will actually make a very real improvement.

--Ethan
Totally disagree. Since I got a V72 everything sounded much warmer, fatter etc. Even a cheap mic sounds good through it. I also don't spend a lot of time on placement and my room is untreated.
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Originally Posted by vincentvangogo View Post
Totally disagree. Since I got a V72 everything sounded much warmer, fatter etc. Even a cheap mic sounds good through it. I also don't spend a lot of time on placement and my room is untreated.
How much would one of them set me back?
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Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
How much would one of them set me back?
I think there were a couple on Ebay recently for about £780 each. You could probably do a bit better if you haggled/looked around. You sometimes see V72a's for less, but I've heard they sound different.
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Quote:
How important is a good preamp?
Comfortable ...

Safe ...

Inspiring ...

Helpful ...

Easier to work with ...

marginally important compared to what really matters ...


You tell me


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Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
As Teddy said, that has everything to do with your environment, and pretty much nothing to do with which preamps you use. Unless you're using the pres in a 30 year old Radio Shack PA mixer.
Sorry, but that's a pile of solid waste from the human body!

Just got back a minute ago from recording a live gig, with a very typical set of PA microphones, dynamic Shure etc. And horrible acoustics of course.

And every single time I'm as surprised at how it sounds when I'm running all 16 channels through my Neve Portico 5012s. Have no idea exactly what does it, but it just sounds right and very sweet. Of course you don't believe me just because I say so, but the difference to say the pre-amps on the live Soundcraft console is HUGE.

Since I know you're a man of science it would be nice if I could demonstrate the effect clearly so you could join the large group of audio engineers who care which pre amp they use. It's possible with only one mike, but would be much better with a full band, with the effect multiplied.

Martin
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pascalm View Post
Hey,

As some of you may be able to tell by my post I am not fully accustomed with the recording world!

At the moment I have a simple, small set up. Running a Line 6 Toneport UX8 with my macbook, I also have a small selection of mics; SE2200A, SE1A x2, SM57 and ATM 250. I see a lot of talk about preamps on this forum and I wondered just how important they were in generating an appealing sound. Would a nice preamp added into my rig make much difference? I was especially thinking about when recording vocals.

Thanks
What kind of a difference are you hoping to add?
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How important is a good preamp.... IMO, more important than a good microphone (which is pretty important). Just my .02, but I would argue that you can make a fairly amazing record with an SM57, 58 and an Audio Technica 4033 paired with a 1073. Now, a U47 + Mackie..... just won't hold up as well.

This has just been my personal experience.
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Originally Posted by Darwin James View Post
My room isnt treated and my vocal recordings come out top notch. So..........

lets be honest here..

Rap Vocals aren't really the litmus test, Darwin.

I mean... Spoken word type recordings aren't going to present as much of a challenge(to the room/equipment/ear) as a "sung" line will.
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How important is a good preamp.... IMO, more important than a good microphone
that defies the laws of physics!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Kantola View Post
Sorry, but that's a pile of solid waste from the human body!

Just got back a minute ago from recording a live gig, with a very typical set of PA microphones, dynamic Shure etc. And horrible acoustics of course.

And every single time I'm as surprised at how it sounds when I'm running all 16 channels through my Neve Portico 5012s. Have no idea exactly what does it, but it just sounds right and very sweet. Of course you don't believe me just because I say so, but the difference to say the pre-amps on the live Soundcraft console is HUGE.

Since I know you're a man of science it would be nice if I could demonstrate the effect clearly so you could join the large group of audio engineers who care which pre amp they use. It's possible with only one mike, but would be much better with a full band, with the effect multiplied.

Martin
John Eargle made many mind blowing recordings on a Soundcraft Console, and oddly enough, though I am certain he had access to whatever he wanted(him being a Jedi and all), in all the liner notes-- SOUNDCRAFT.
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That spoke volumes to me, and the first time I read it, is when I woke up out of my gear-obsessed stupor and walked into reality.

most all of what is out there is capable of amazing results, assuming the engineer is good. If the engineer isn't good, well... no amount of equipment will change that.
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